The study used the University of Ghana, Department of Psychology both the main and city campus as the research setting. The population was the level 400 students offering cognitive psychology. To serve as a sample, a total of 210 students were chosen and put into 70 participants each for the three groups. The groups were CG, EG1 and EG2; making the study a between subject post-test only design. The study found out that females did not outdo males on across modality condition. Also the study found out that the single task condition was executed better than the across modality condition. However, the across modality condition was not performed better than the within group condition. Furthermore, the researcher makes various recommendations for future studies.
INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW
It has been generally accepted that females are better than males when it comes to engaging in multiple task carried out simultaneously. This has been attributed to the fact that women have been tasked with engaging in professional activities, whiles caring for the home. Based on this, many studies have been performed to examine women perform better than men. Performing dual tasks relates to when an individual participates in more than one activity at the same time, either across or within modality (Altmann, Plummer, Saracino, Fox, Behrman and Marsiske, 2008). Despite the fact that multitasking is considered as a usual occurrence, it has been carefully examined in studies only a few times- that is how it operates and the factors that affect it. It is this gap that the present study seeks to bridge by examining how factors like gender and modality affects multitasking.
The present study is based on the theory of attention as developed by Khaneman in 1973. The theory talks about how cognitive resources are made available for performing various duties and activities. The theory states that cognitive resources of attention are inadequate and are allocated based on the nature of the task (Goper and Navon, 2009). As maintained by Pellecchia (2013) a component of attention called the central processor, determines how attention is assigned to each activity. In taking the decision on how much needs to be allocated, the processor considers the nature task involved; complex/simple, controlled/automatic, single/multiple and within/across modality, amongst others. Furthermore, the theory assumes that for the performance of a multiple task, the processor divides the cognitive resources and shares them, because the resource is inadequate. Thus when the resources are shared, the attention capacity might meet its limit and makes it difficult for performance on the task. Shumway-Cook (2012) stated that this makes it easier to perform a task when it is a single task rather than a multiple task either across modality or within modality.
Coxon, Van-Impe, Goble, Wenderoth and Swinnen (2011) stated that many studies have been conducted on dual task and these studies show that interferences affects multitasking. The researchers indicated that interferences is the main factor that hinders the performance of multiple simultaneous tasks, especially within modality, and this is due to serial queuing- a set of activities performed in succession in response to a task (Shumway-Cook and Woollcacott 2012). However, other studies have attributed the impediment to how complex the task that is being performed is.
Aleman, Sommer, Bouma and Kahn (2014) carried out a study to examine concurrent task performance and its responses. The researcher split the sample into 3 independent groups; with group one performing just the visual task, group two carrying out a visual and a verbal task and the third group were given two visual tasks to perform. The findings showed that the single task group outdid all other groups, followed by the across modality task and then the within modality task, respectively. With the reasons being that for the within modality, recall was hindered by interference and across modality by complexity.
In addition, Halpern (2009) indicated that divided attention has been noted to be affected by gender differences. The researcher stated that women have been noted to perform better than men on divided attention across modality. Logie (2015) performed a study to examine this. The participants were made to engage in a memory and reaction task under full attention and divided attention. The results indicated that women had better recall than men under both full attention and divided attention. Contrarily, Healy and Jones (2006) found that there was no major difference between females and males on cognitive task under both divided and full attention activities.
AIMS OF THE STUDY
To examine dual task effects within and across modalities.
To examine gender related difference on dual task.
STATEMENT OF HYPOTHESES
Males will be outdone by females in dual task across modality task
The dual task across modality will be outdone by the single task group.
The dual task within modality will be outdone by the dual task across modality.
Within modality: participating in two visual tasks at the same time
Across modality: engaging in both visual and auditory tasks at the same time
Type of processing: presenting of visual and auditory tasks to the participants
Auditory mode: presenting the recorded conversation o the participants
Visual mode: presenting a list of passage/words that is or are displayed to the participants
Dual task: performing two activities at the simultaneously.
Single task: performing one activity (only visual task)
Population and sample: The study used the Psychology department of the University of Ghana, both Accra City and Main campus, as the research settings with the students serving as the population. The researcher chose a sample of 210 from the population using the simple random sampling method and after they were put into 3 groups of 70 each. The groups included the control group (CG), the experimental group one (EG1) and experimental group two (EG2). The CG performed the single task, EG 1 performing the dual task across modality and EG2 performing the dual task within modality. The researcher ensured that the groups were well represented. The participants were within the age ranges of 23 to 35.
Material/Equipment/instrument: Laptops, recall list, head set, scoring sheets, study list, an English fluency test, a recording of a comprehension passage, and two rehearsal prevention tasks served as the materials, equipment and instruments for the study. The visual tasks were presented using a laptop, with the auditory task presented through a head set. In order to prevent overlapping of duties, each group had assigned a laptop and other instruments, equipment and materials depending on the condition being performed.
The recall list was made up of 50 words, including 25 random English words making up the study list and 25 homophones that were added to mask the study list. The auditory task was a passage taken from Things fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the other visual task was an English fluency test. Also two rehearsal prevention test of simple yes/no and true/false were used for the study.
Procedure and Design: The study used three independent groups (EG1, EG2 and CG) and hence the study design selected for the study was the between group post-test only design. The single task condition was given to the control group, the across modality dual task (visual/auditory) was given to the experimental group one and the within modality (two visual tasks) given to the experimental group two.
The study gave the control group a study list, presented at an inter stimulus interval (ISI) of a word per a second, and the participants were expected to memorize the words. The experimental group one, on the other hand, were given the study list and also made to listen to the recorded message. After this, a rehearsal prevention task was given, which was a set of 10 questions from the passage and participant were expected to answer yes/no. Furthermore, the experimental group two were given the study list and a reading fluency test- that was a simple true or false test- on the same laptop presented side-by-side. Participants were given a 25 true or false question to prevent rehearsal and before the recall list was shown. Recall was calculated based on the ability of the participants to reproduce the 25 list from the 50 recall list; the list was presented at an ISI of 2 seconds per a word. Scoring was done using scoring sheets.
Participants were given one for a right score and zero for a negative score. The design was used because of the 2*2 factorial nature of the variables and also the need for three groups to be created. Also, this was to ensure that they could measure the main and interaction effects of the variables understudy. Also, it allowed for a high internal validity of the study.
Table 1: Descriptive statistics for the number of correct response among the groups
sex Channel processing N Std. Deviation Mean
Males Control Group 31 3.23 17.77
Experimental Group 1 31 3.78 13.06
Experimental Group II 25 4.95 13.32
Total 87 4.51 14.82
Females Control Group 39 3.42 18.36
Experimental Group 1 39 4.33 11.15
Experimental Group II 45 4.64 14.58
Total 123 5.06 14.69
Total Control Group 70 3.33 18.10
Experimental Group 1 70 4.17 12.00
Experimental Group II 70 4.76 14.13
Total 210 4.83 14.74
Table 2: summary of the Two Way Analyses of Variance Results
Source Type III Sum of Squares DfMean Square F Sig.
Sex .03 1 .03 .002 .97
Modality 1282.87 2 641.43 38.11 .00
sex * modality 94.24 2 47.12 2.80 .06
Total 4870.11 209 Table 3: Multiple Comparisons of Means of the Three Conditions of Task
Conditions CG EG1 EG2
Control Group – 6.10* 3.97*
Experimental Group 1 – – 2.12*
Experimental Group 2 – – –
*mean difference is significant at 0.05 level
The findings of the study are presented in the tables above. Table one provided information on the descriptive statistics, with table two displaying information on the two way ANOVA and table three on the LSD multiple comparison scores. From table two it can be observed that there was no significant difference between males and females on recall on across modality tasks and hence hypothesis one was not supported F(1,209) =.002, P=.97. Furthermore, the study found out that single group performed better than the across modality group F(1,209) =38.11, P=.00. Contrarily, the findings showed that the experimental group one (M = 12.00, SD= 4.17) did not outperform the experimental group two (M = 14.13, SD= 4.76) on recall.
Figure 1: Graph on Modality effect and sex
With the aid of the table and the graph, it can be observed that the interaction effect between sex and modality effect on multitasking was not significant F (2,209) =2.80, P=.06. Furthermore, it was observed that CG performed better all other condition (M=18.10, SD=3.33) on recall, followed by EG2 (M= 14.13, SD= 4.76) and EG1 (M= 12.00, SD= 4.17). In addition, it was observed that females performed better than males on all groups except the experimental group one.
DISCUSSION OF THE STUDY
First and foremost, the findings of the study showed that there was no significant difference between females and males on multitasking across modality and this led to the refuting of the hypothesis one. This was contrary to the findings of Logie (2015) when the researcher found out that women performed significantly better at recall than men both under full and divided attention. Also, Halpern (2009) added that constant research has shown that women perform better than men on recall across modality. However, Healy and Jones (2016) found out that there was no difference between the two sex and this confirms the findings of the present study. Van-Impe et al. (2011) stated that mostly performance on a task is usually based on complexity and interferences, and not sex differences. This shows the reason why the study found out no differences in gender. It can also be attributed to the fact that gender is biological and attention is a cognitive action and not biologically related. Also, it can be noted that the participants had the same academic background and hence participate in roughly the same set of cognitive activities. This means the participants have been engaging in the same activities over time and hence have had decreasing effects on the cognitive difference. Thus they might have adapted the same characteristics over time.
In addition, the study found out that the single task group (controlled) performed better than the across modality dual task group. This supported hypothesis two. A study conducted by Aleman et al. (2014) supported the findings of the study. Aleman et al. (2014) stated that the single task group performed better than the across modality dual task group. As maintained by Khaneman’s theory, attention is limited and hence it is difficult for a lot of activities to be performed at the same time. This makes it easier for performance on single tasks to be performed rather than complex across modality tasks. Furthermore, Shumway-cook and Woollacott (2012), stated that though the tasks are in two differences modality they pool from the same limited attention resource. Furthermore, Van-Impe et al. (2011) stated that performing two task across modality makes the task very difficult and leads to a declined performance.
Last but not the least, the study found out that the across modality dual task did not perform better than the within modality dual task group. According to a study conducted by Aleman et al. (2014) found out that the across modality dual tasks performed better than the within modality dual tasks. However, this was contrary to the findings of the current study. Aleman et al. (2014) stated that usually the within tasks are hindered by interferences within the various tasks and this was supposed to make the across modality performing better than within (Pellecchia, 2013). Also, Coxon et al. (2011) added that performing various task within modality becomes very difficult, due to interferences, as compared to performing it across modality. The reasons for this findings can be attributed to the fact that both activities that were performed across modality were controlled activities and hence made it very complex to perform as compared to the various tasks that were performed within modality.
In conclusion, the study was faced with a lot of drawbacks. First and foremost, the study was limited by the fact that the study used more females than males. Furthermore, the study was limited based on the study design. The study was a between subject post-test design and hence made it challenging for the researcher to have a baseline for comparison; this was because there was no pre-testing. Also, the study was limited because it was conducted in a simulated environment and hence lacks external validity. The findings of the study implicated that women and men have the same level of processing on across modality dual tasks conditions. Future researchers should consider pre-testing before post-testing the participants. Also, future researchers should consider choosing people who are from different academic levels to examine what makes a difference in performance. Furthermore, future researcher should consider introducing controlled or automatic tasks.
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